Category Archives: news

The Alaskan Goo demystified

Another delightful well written piece by Jennifer Frazer in her SciAm blog. She presents a solution to a unknown fungus that showed up as a blanket of orange spores in the water near the town of Kivalina, Alaska. “Mystery of Alaskan “Goo” Rust Solved at Last”. Jennifer writes that the rust spores are from:

Spruce-Labrador Tea Needle RustChrysomyxa ledicola, a parasite of both spruce trees and arhododendron — a flowering woody shrub common to conifer understories the world over — called Labrador Tea.


Orange goo is in fact rust spores in Alaska waters

Previously incorrectly identified as eggs, the ‘orange goo’ floating off the shore of a small Alaskan village has now been identified as a rust fungus.

If they had known that a hoard of Mycologists were descending on Alaska for our annual meeting!  I guess the exact identification is still being determined by NOAA labs – hope they can PCR ITS up and figure it out (and maybe save a culture for deposition somewhere).

(Thanks to Blake Billmyre for passing along the story)

Still time to sign up for EMBO Comparative Genomics meeting

[via Teun Boekhout]

This year looks like another great lineup of speakers for the EMBO Comparative Genomics of Microorganisms: ‘Understanding the Complexity of Diversity’ 15-20 Oct 2011 Sant Feliu de Guixols, Spain.

Andrew Allen J. Craig Venter Institute US
Anders Blomberg Göteborg University SE
Chris Bowler École Normale Supérieure FR
Gertraud Burger University of Montreal CA
Bernard Dujon Institut Pasteur FR
Toni Gabaldón CRG, Barcelona ES
Ursula Goodenough Washington University US
Michael Gray Dalhousie University CA
Joseph Heitman Duke University US
Christiane Hertz-Fowler University of Liverpool UK
Regine Kahmann Max Planck Institute DE
Patrick Keeling University of British Columbia CA
Nicole King UC, Berkeley US
Edda Klipp Humboldt University DE
Veronique Leh Louis University of Strasbourg FR
Jan Pawlowski University of Geneva CH
Jure Piskur Lund University SE
Tom Richards University of Exeter UK
Andrew J. Roger Dalhousie University CA
David Roos University of Pennsylvania US
Iñaki Ruiz-Trillo University of Barcelona ES
Joseph Schacherer University of Strasbourg FR
Artur Scherf Institut Pasteur FR
Joey Spatafora Oregon State University US
Nicholas Talbot University of Exeter UK
Kevin Verstrepen University of Leuven BE
Eric Westhof University of Strasbourg FR
Patrick Wincker Genoscope FR
Ken Wolfe Smurfit Institute of Genetics IE
Alexandra Z. Worden University of California US

Some comments from former participants:

Comments from 2009 meeting

Overall rating

Based on responses from 80% of participants:

Excellent 50%; Very Good 44%; Good 6%.



It is hard to improve the meeting. It’s a good mixture of conference and workshop with a lot of input from expert of adjacent field.

I strongly support the idea the meeting is organized in the future at a regular basis.

Very high quality, open minded with presentations ranging from pure genomics to implementation in the field of ecology; plenty of novelties. Plenty of time to discuss and to establish potential collaborations

I hope to have the possibility to go in the future to this meeting. We learn a lot, and also the size is well, the students have the possibility to talk of discuss with senior

Great work!

Thanks to the organizers for an extremely interesting and productive meeting.

Great meeting. This is a unique meeting because it brings together a group of scientists that dont normally interact with each other. Thus, great opportunities for cross-interactions. This meeting has the potential to fill a very unique niche. I enjoyed meeting new people from diverse fields. I plan to attend again and encourage my colleagues to do so.

This meeting was a great match to my interests but also challenged me to think outside of my normal sphere.  I applaud the organizers and the participants in making this a useful meeting.

The meeting was very well organized and at a very good location. I enjoyed it very much.

I hope this meeting continues as it was a valuable forum for the field of comparative genomics.

This meeting is unique in its broad organism focus. Please keep supporting it.

The passing of Walter Fitch

Walter Fitch passed away on Thursday. Below is Brandon Gaut’s message that was posted to EvolDir. He was truly an intellectual giant in evolutionary biology making key contributions to phylogenetics and molecular evolution.

Dear Colleagues –

I am sorry to report that a beloved member of our campus community,
Dr. Walter Fitch, passed away in his sleep this morning at his home
in University Hills. We will miss him dearly as a friend, as a
colleague, and as a towering intellectual presence.

Walter was born in San Diego in 1929, and earned his Ph.D. in
Comparative Biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley
in 1958. He was a post-doctoral scholar at both Stanford and
University College (London) and held full professorships at the
University of Wisconsin and the University of Southern California. He
came to UC Irvine in 1989 as a Distinguished Professor and later
became the Chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Walter was a founding father of the field of molecular evolution, and
established methods for constructing phylogenetic trees from amino
acid and nucleic acid sequences. He also made contributions to
virology, the origin of life, taxonomy, genetics and molecular
biology. For his work he was elected to the National Academy of
Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Linnean
Society (England). He founded the Society for Molecular Biology and
Evolution and was the editor-in-chief of its journal, Molecular
Biology and Evolution for its first 10 years. He contributed mightily
not only to the intellectual process but as a mentor to young scientists.

Walter is survived by his beloved wife, his four children and several
grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.


Brandon Gaut

Professor & Chair

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Love, Sex and Mushrooms: Adventures of a Woman in Science

[Reposted from FGSC news]

Cardy Raper, University of Vermont Professor Emerita, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, has just published a memoir titled “Love, Sex and Mushrooms: Adventures of a Woman in Science” (ISBN 978-0-615-43440-7). As Peter R. Day, coauthor of “Plant-Fungal Pathogen Interaction” remarked: “Books about sex in fungi rarely reward the casual interest of the general reader generated by ‘sex’ in their titles….Cardy Raper’s autobiography is a refreshing exception….What makes it so readable and engrossing is her frank account of her circumstances both in and out of the laboratory. This book will encourage aspiring students, men as well as women, in how to overcome difficulties.” And Lorna Casselton, FRS, commented: “Cardy Raper succeeded in being what she dreamed of as a young girl, a successful scientist with her own laboratory. But it was not a conventional path to success….This is the personal story of an exceptional woman scientist.”

Copies of the book will be available at this year’s Fungal Genetics Conference at Asilomar, in March. 


Fungal conferences abstract wordle

I am preparing to read through the abstracts submitted for the 26th Fungal Genetics Conference in choosing talks for my session and I wondered if there were any changing trends in the topics over the years. While I won’t put up the Wordle for this year’s abstracts till the booklet is published, I thought I’d see how the topics trended in the last few years for some of these meetings. Will be fun to do this for a few more years back to see whether real trends emerge.

The data is a little cleaned up but the text included institution and individual names so things like university and department show up as prominent in some of these graphs.

Here is the Neurospora 2010 meeting (wordle page)

Neurospora 2010 abstracts Wordle
2010 Neurospora abstracts Wordle


Neurospora 2008 (wordle page)

2008 Neurospora conference abstracts Wordle

25th (2009) Fungal Genetics Conference (wordle page)

25th Fungal Genetics Abstracts
25th Fungal Genetics Wordle

24th (2007) Fungal Genetics Conference (wordle page)

24th Fungal Genetics abstracts Wordle


And the streets will be paved with mushrooms…

In case you wanted to live on a mycologically fun street – Looks like there is a home for sale on Ustilago Drive which is just around the corner from Chanterelle Drive.

I do wonder how many pathogens have streets named after them now.

It would be too cruel to letter-writers and the frogs to the name a Sierra Mtn road Batrachochytrium Way or for a farmer to have to live on Puccinia Ave alongside a wheat field in North Dakota…


White nose syndrome genome released

The Broad Institute released their sequence of the genome of Geomyces destructans implicated in the White Nose Syndrome that is causing a massive die-offs of bats. The researchers sequenced a North America isolated strain in this project which is part of an epidemic spreading across the Northeastern United States. This is just the assembly of the genome not the annotation which will be forthcoming.